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AI condemns exhibit organizer convictions

MOSCOW, July 12 (UPI) -- Amnesty International says it condemns Monday's conviction of the organizers of a Russian art exhibition.

A Moscow court fined Andrei Yerofeev, the exhibition curator, and Yuri Samodurov, then-director of the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Centre, where the Forbidden Art 2006 exhibition was staged.

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They were sentenced to pay fines of $4,800 and $6,442 respectively.

Yerofeev and Samodurov are to appeal the verdicts, Amnesty International said.

"These shameful verdicts are yet another blow to freedom of expression in Russia. Such judgments have no place in a state supposedly ruled by law," Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program director, said in a statement.

The prosecution said Samodurov and Yerofeev had arranged the exhibits, some of which used religious symbolism, in such a way that they incited enmity and hatred and also denigrated the dignity of Christian groups, in particular Orthodox Christians.

"None of the works incited enmity or hatred. Freedom of expression cannot be restricted or prohibited simply on the grounds that some people find the views expressed offensive or disagreeable," Duckworth added. "Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeev were convicted solely because they dared to show a number of censored art works that had been refused public display at other exhibitions."

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The exhibition featured pieces by some of Russia's most well-known contemporary artists, such as Ilya Kabakov, Alexander Kosolapov, the group Blue Noses, Aleksandr Savko and Mikhail Roginskii.

The exhibits included works that included Mickey Mouse instead of Jesus Christ in paintings portraying scenes from the Bible.

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